Austin AU766 Vintage Rock LP Reviews 5

I was in the market for a cheap Les Paul copy, and after recently having my Yamaha RGX-112 in for a tuneup, I decided to look at the Gibson and Epiphone Les Pauls again at my local dealership. They looked very nice, but were a little pricey. I have always liked the look of the Les Paul, it's the ultimate electric guitar in terms of look and sound, but I wanted a bargain. I had run across the Austin Vintage Rock LP review here at MGR, and decided to look into it, as the price quoted seemed near what I was willing to spend. My first stop was at Austin's homepage at http://www.austingtr.com/ for some pictures of this model. After roaming the rather sparse site and getting a feel for the line and having good looks at all the models, I moved on to comparison. Aesthetically, how does the Austin version stack up against the original? Austin has some very nice guitars including Squire and Stratocaster copies. They're not limited to solid body electrics, either. They have some great looking arch-top electric/acoustic guitars, and even a mandolin. As well in the Les Paul line, there are several different versions with quilted or flamed tops, more intricate bindings, etc. This Les Paul is almost exactly like the original, except for a few minor differences which I¡¦ll go into later. Looks great, sounds great and the price is SO right! I was interested in the Vintage Rock LP only, so I had a good long look. Unfortunately, the AU766 only comes in two flavors: A cherry sunburst and solid black version, both of which are complimented by chromed hardware. I already have a black Yamaha RGX-112, and I have been a BIG fan of Ace Frehley and his Cherry Sunburst Les Paul ever since I was a kid... Bottom line? I've wanted one of those suckers since I was four...time to get one, hooray for disposable income! My first stop was the dealer that fixed my Yamaha a few weeks earlier. He asked me to try an Epiphone that looked similar. It had a really nice action, really smooth and wicked fast. It looked great and was SUPER light. It was everything it should have been¡Kexcept cheap. It was $789.00 Canadian, which was a lot more that I was budgeted for. I finally found an Austin dealer locally, but he wanted almost as much ($600.00 Canadian), and couldn¡¦t guarantee a delivery time, saying only that Austin¡¦s delivery was ¡§sporadic¡¨. Both of the local dealers I saw advised me that the Austin line was ¡§really low-end¡¨ and one even went so far as to say ¡§they¡¦re garbage, do yourself a favor and buy the Epiphone¡¨. Back to the Internet. The majority of prices I saw on the net hovered between $199.95 US and $250 US. I live in Canada and the exchange rate isn¡¦t that great, so the cheaper the better. After about a week of searching and comparing retail prices and shipping quotes, I finally settled on two online shops. There was one in New York which had the guitar for $199.95 US - 4 cents cheaper than Guitarxlabs.com in New Jersey. Guitarxlabs.com, however, had a deal whereby all Austin guitars got free shipping within the US, so I went with them. I e-mailed the customer service department and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the deal was still on. I decided that I would have the guitar shipped to Calais Maine, as it is about an hour from my house there is a UPS and FedEx depot at one of the local hardware stores. This would save me the shipping fee (which, had I requested the instrument be shipped to my home, would have been QUITE a lot more¡K.on the order of $80-$100, just for shipping). The guys at guitarxlabs answered all of my questions politely, even when I pestered ¡¥em ƒº. They gave me some really good information regarding the guitar itself and other lines that they carry. I have purchased a lot of things online, but I have NEVER had a transaction go as smooth as it did when I bought this guitar, everything was A1, from start to finish, and other online retailers should take note of the customer service experience these guys are providing. GuitarXlabs.com has mastered probably the hardest part of online retailing, the customer experience. I ordered on a weekend, and they informed me that they didn¡¦t have any in stock, but they actually called the warehouse to see if they could have one sent directly that day. Needless to say it shipped bright and early the following Monday morning and by Friday I had my guitar, safe and sound, stringed up and tuned. Since my parents travel that way often, it was decided that they would pick it up in Calais, Maine on one of their trips as it is only an hour away. So, Guitarxlabs.com absorbed the shipping costs, and I paid $199.99 US for the guitar, taxes in (about $280 Canadian given the exchange rate at the time), crossed the border and couldn¡¦t wait to plug it in.

The Austin AU766 that I bought was the Cherry Sunburst version. Overall the guitar is VERY solid and durable. The guitar is ¡§Pre-antiqued¡¨ in that the celluloid binding, pick guard and other celluloid parts are an off white to very light tan, giving it that vintage or ¡§broken in¡¨ look. Add to this the rounded, celluloid bound neck and you really get that vintage feel. Then there¡¦s the sound. The twin humbucking pickups sound great in my estimation. To be truthful, no, they¡¦re not as crisp as the Gibson pickups on the Epiphone I tried, but I found they have a nice ¡§warm¡¨ tone with just a touch of fuzz, so the guitar not only looks vintage, but sounds it as well. The whole unit is solid as a rock from top to bottom, this instrument is made to last. Add to this the weight (the Austin is WAY heavier than it¡¦s Epiphone counterpart) and you have one very durable machine. In terms of finish, the color is very rich and the blend to the natural color is well done. The bolt on neck has stayed very solid and I find it requires only occasional tuning. Speaking of tuning and the like, the Tune A-Matic bridge has made changing strings a breeze. The traditional Gibson cut-out has changed a little, being pointed on the Austin version instead of rounded like on the Gibson version. I find this little touch gives this quitar a character all its own.

Three words: It¡¦s a PIG. This little bugger¡¦s HEAVY with a capital ¡¥H¡¦, so beware! Also, I wish the arched top had more figuring to the wood, like those options available on the Vintage Rock Custom, as it tends to look a little bland in spots. When looking at the back of the guitar and the binding around the body (behind the celluloid), one can see that the body of the unit is pieced together (the grains/color don't match uniformly around the body).

VERY solid construction, my guitar doesn't go out of tune that often. Though there are some minor aesthetic 'flaws', the unit on the whole is quite well constructed in my opinion, and very durable. The sound quality is excellent for an instrument in this price range, and if you're not satisfied, you can always change the pickups. It should be noted that the Austin line is distributed through the same company that handles the world famous Alvarez and Alvarez Yairi hand-made Guitars. It should also be noted that these units are a product of Indonesia.

Overall, this is an outstanding instrument in my opinion. The Austin AU766 Vintage Rock LP captures the essence of the Les Paul in a tight, good looking affordable package that makes for a great guitar. the quality is good, and this instrument stands up to the competition. Not quite a Gibson, but a great affordable alternative that deserves to stand on it's own. Plus, it could smoke that $789.00 Epiphone ay day.

Scott Rinehart rated this unit 5 on 2004-08-21.

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